Elem. – Chi-Chi and Pey-Pey

Fosberry, Jennifer. Chi-Chi and Pey-Pey. Simon Spotlight, 2023. $17.99 ea. 64 p. Grades PreK-1.

School Day Drama. 978-1-665-93189-2.
Cupcake Catastrophe. 978-1-665-93201-1. 

Chi-Chi the chicken and Pey-Pey the penguin are getting ready to start school in the graphic novel School Day Drama. Chi-chi (who loves cheese puffs, cheerleading and the cha-cha) is nervous to start school. Pey-pey (who enjoys pirates, popsicles and pogo sticks) is chill and relaxed about starting the school year. When their teacher, Mrs. Possum, pairs them up as class buddies on the first day of school, and asks them to discover something they both like, the task seems impossible. The pair discuss their favorite desserts, hobbies, snacks and shapes, but they can’t agree on anything! The teacher suggests they mix some of their favorite things and make something new. But combining cheese puffs and popsicles or pom-poms and pirate ships are not winning combinations. When they stalk away from one another in frustration, they discover they can combine Chi-Chi’s love of the cha-cha and Pey-Pey’s love of jumping into a jumpy dance and a new friendship is born. As Cupcake Catastrophe opens, Chi-Chi and Pey-Pey are now fast friends who love hanging out and playing games with one another. In fact, they get along so well, they never fight. But one day at school, cupcakes are on the menu at snacktime. And not just any cupcakes, but cupcakes with brightly colored frosting. Chi-Chi wants a purple cupcake. Pey-Pey wants a purple cupcake. No problem, right? Wrong! There’s only one purple cupcake! They chirp and peep and fight over the cupcake. They finally decide to split the cupcake…but it’s gone (perhaps their teacher was responsible?). Dejected, Pey-Pey takes a blue cupcake and Chi-Chi selects a red cupcake, only to realize if they combine their frosting, they will each have a purple cupcake. Crisis averted!

THOUGHTS: The Chi-Chi and Pey-Pey series is part of Simon & Schuster’s Ready to Read Graphics series and is intended to introduce emerging readers to the graphic novel format. The larger panels feature large, simple text and brightly colored illustrations that will engage readers. Readers will also be able to relate to the storyline in each volume, as many student have encountered new peers on the first day of school or had an argument with a friend. A worthwhile purchase for graphic novel collections serving early readers.

Graphic Novel

Elem. – Pizza and Taco

Shaskan, Stephen. Pizza and Taco. Random House, 2023. $10.99 ea. 58 p. Grades K-2.

Pizza and Taco: Rock Out! 978-0-593-48124-0.
Pizza and Taco: Dare to be Scared! 978-0-593-48128-8.

Best friends Pizza and Taco (last seen in Pizza and Taco: Too Cool for School) are back in two new additions to the graphic novel series. In Pizza and Taco: Rock Out!, the pair decide to start a rock band. Although they enjoy music, they have no experience playing instruments, but they don’t let that stand in their way. After deciding on their instruments (Pizza will play the guitar and Taco the drums…or perhaps the tambourine), their genre of music (rock, of course) and their band name (Awesome Yaas!), they are ready to recruit some band members. An advertisement results in several folks showing up to tryout, including the folk playing Veggieburger and Tofu Dog, and the hard rock Cookie and Muffin, they ultimately decide to invite Hamburger and Hot Dog to join the band. But the band breaks up when Hamburger and Hot Dog discover Pizza and Taco can’t read or play (or as it turns out, write) music. This leads Pizza and Taco to reassess their plans. Maybe starting a band takes a lot more work than they initially thought… In Pizza and Taco: Dare to be Scared!, the pair decide to challenge each other to a “Dare-to-be-Scared Challenge”! The scary challenges include staying in a dark closet, entering the dark basement, and watching a scary movie (though Pizza’s mom nixes their initial choice of watching Night of the Living Bread). They decide to watch an episode of Ghost Pepper Hunters, with hosts Turkey Sub and Chicken Sandwich, but the show turns out not to be that scary, so they decide to go ghost pepper hunting on their own. Flashlights in hand, hats on hand, Pizza and Taco set out for a nearby graveyard when it gets dark. Upon entering the graveyard, they hear a noise…could they be about to encounter a ghost pepper?!?

THOUGHTS: These welcome additions to the Pizza and Taco series continue the laugh out loud antics the pair have shown in earlier volumes. Kids will love the humorous storyline and adults will get a kick out of play on names Shaskan incorporates throughout the text (Pizza loves the rock singer Jam Jett and her song “I Love Lobster Roll”, Taco enjoys The Beetles and their song “Love Me, Stew”). This series deserves a spot in the graphic novel collection of any library that serves younger readers. 

Graphic Novel

Elem. – Adventures in Fosterland (Series Fiction)

Shaw, Hannah. Adventures in Fosterland. Aladdin, 2022. $17.99 ea. $44.95 set of 3. Grades 1-3.

Super Spinach. 978-665-90125-3.
Emmett and Jez. 978-1-665-90119-2.
Baby Badger. 978-1-665-92555-6. (Expected in February 2023)

Adventures in Fosterland is a new series written by Hannah Shaw, who is involved with kitten rescue. Each volume is inspired by an actual animal rescue story. Emmett and Jez tells the story of a tiny piglet named Emmett who falls off a truck and is wandering on the side of the road when he is rescued and taken to “Fosterland.” Fosterland the home of a nice lady who fosters animals until they are adopted. There, Emmett soon becomes fast friends with Jez, a kitten who is healing after surgery to remove an injured leg. As time passes, Emmett realizes that he and Jez are different in many ways from one another, and this means they might go in separate directions once they leave Fosterland. Will they find their forever homes? In Super Spinach, readers are introduced to Spinach, a kitten at an animal shelter. Spinach needs to have surgery on her ribs and is quite scared. An older cat tells her she will have to have superpowers to recover from the surgery. So when Spinach wakes up wearing a hard chest plate that will protect her while she recovers, she decides she must be a superhero with armor! Sent to Fosterland to recover, Spinach teams up with Chickpea, another kitten in Fosterland, and they soon are gaining confidence and taking on challenges they never would have dreamed of previously. When it’s time for Spinach’s chest plate to come off, she is worried that it means the end of her superpowers. But she soon discovers that you don’t need armor or a costume to be brave. 

THOUGHTS: Hand this series to fans of animal stories, particularly cat lovers (each book in the series thus far features a kitten as one of the protagonists). Readers will enjoy these stories of friendship and will also learn important lessons about kindness and bravery. Each title contains a closing chapter where Shaw shares the real stories of the animals who inspired the series and the back cover features photos of the real Emmett, Jez, Spinach, and Chickpea. Recommended.

Animals          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

YA – This Wicked Fate

Bayron, Kaylnn. This Wicked Fate. Bloomsbury, 2022. 978-1-5476-0920-8. 307 pg. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

This Wicked Fate starts right where the first book (This Poison Heart) ends, with Briseis trying to find a way to rescue her mother. However, that means that Briseis needs to put together the pieces of the Absyrtus Heart plant, which is deadly. Throughout this book, Briseis gets to know her relatives that she has never really met while there are others who want the heart. What will Briseis do in order to save her mother, as well as those she loves? Will she be able to rescue her mother, or is this a mission that is doomed to fail no matter what?

THOUGHTS: This was a great ending to this duology!! The way the author delves into the family dynamic as well as the interpersonal relationships between these characters is done spectacularly. The character arcs are very well done, and everything feels very natural. This duology would be great for fans of mythology or fans of a fantasy series. 

Fantasy            Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy 

Elem. – King & Kayla and the Case of the Lost Library Book

Butler, Dori Hillestad. King & Kayla and the Case of the Lost Library Book. Peachtree, 2022. 978-1-682-63215-4. 47 p. $14.99. Grades K-2. 

King (a dog, and the narrator of the King & Kayla series) wants to play with his owner Kayla, but she doesn’t have time. She’s busy searching the house for her missing library book. She needs it so she can participate in book exchange at the library. King loves listening to Kayla read him stories, so he decides to help her look for the book. When Kayla’s friend Jillian stops by, she joins in the search, too. Together, Kayla and Jillian create a list of things they know about the missing book and what they don’t know. (King wants to contribute to the list, but unfortunately for him, the girls don’t understand dog-speak). The girls then determine a plan of action to try to locate the book. With a little help from King, the book is found and the crisis averted. 

THOUGHTS: This delightful early chapter book will hold great appeal for readers. It serves as an excellent gateway to mystery/detective stories and could also be used in lessons about problem solving or even in a talk about locating lost library books. The book incorporates humor through the character of King, who can be somewhat excitable in his efforts to solve the mystery.

Early Chapter Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Pizza and Taco: Too Cool for School

Shaskan, Stephen. Pizza and Taco: Too Cool for School. Random House, 2022. 978-0-593-37607-2. 58 p. $9.99. Grades K-2.

Best friends Pizza and Taco are back in another installment of Stephen Shaskan’s graphic novel series for younger elementary readers. The pair are sure they are going to be the coolest kids at school upon their arrival–after all, Pizza has just gotten a new backpack featuring one of the most popular shows on TV. But when they arrive at Fairfield Elementary, they discover the buzz in the schoolyard is all about a new student in their class–BLT. BLT certainly seems cool to Pizza and Taco. He wears sunglasses, doesn’t care about being late to class, and is too hip to play games with the other students at recess. Desperate to be as cool as BLT, Pizza and Taco round up some sunglasses from lost and found, hang out with BLT at recess and start showing up to class late. But, when they happen to meet BLT’s older brother, they learn that BLT might just actually be….a typical student?!?

THOUGHTS: Many students will be able to relate to Pizza and Taco wanting to emulate the cool new kid. Some readers may also identify with BLT–the new kid who (as it turns out) is putting on a bit of an act to seem too cool for school to impress his new classmates. Not only will readers learn about the importance of staying true to yourself, they will also enjoy the humorous illustrations and dialogue.

Graphic Novel            Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Captain Cat Goes to Mars

Virjan, Emma J. Captain Cat Goes to Mars. Simon Spotlight, 2022. 978-5-344-9574-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-1. 

Captain Cat (last seen in Captain Cat and the Pirate Lunch) is back for a new adventure. This time he is working with Pilot Matt (a dog) to build a spaceship with the goal of traveling to Mars. When their ship is built, they put on their spacesuits and blast off, heading straight for the Red Planet. After landing, they encounter Zoof, Zeff, and Zatt, three green aliens who reside on the planet. Together, they explore the planet, make angels in the dust of Mars, and explore craters and more. When a storm moves in, the spaceship is damaged when it is blown over. Will Cat and Matt become permanently stranded? Perhaps with some help from their new friends, they will be able to find a way home.

THOUGHTS: Part of the Ready to Read series, this volume is designed for beginning readers. The text features simple words in rhyming couplets written in large font. The title is sure to hold appeal for early readers, especially those who enjoy humor, animals, and/or aliens. Recommended for libraries serving primary age students.

Picture Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

YA – The Ballad of Never After

Garber, Stephanie. The Ballad of Never After. Hodder and Stoughton, 2022. 978-1-250-87543-3. 403 pg. $19.99. Grades 10-12.

The Ballad of Never After starts right after the events of the first book, bringing the reader along with Evangeline after she was betrayed by the Prince of Hearts. Evangeline still has the issue of her true love, Apollo, being cursed and now it seems that the curse is affecting her as well. In order to break this curse, Evangeline finds herself working with Jacks, the Prince of Hearts, against her better judgment. Will she be able to break the curse before it kills her? Evangeline always has been able to follow her heart, but this time it might lead her into the wrong arms.

THOUGHTS: This series is super easy to follow and isn’t extremely fantasy heavy, which makes it a great series for readers who aren’t into heavier fantasy reads. There is a lot of romance found within both books. There also are some spicy scenes, so this would be more appropriate for higher high school grades.  

Fantasy          Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

YA – Castles in their Bones

Sebastian, Laura. Castles in their Bones. Delacorte Press, 2022. 978-0-593-11816-0. $18.99. 528p. Grades 9-12.

Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz are triplets, and from the time they were young, they have been raised to be the future rulers of Vesteria. Their mother, Empress Margaraux, has had this plan in place since before they were born. At sixteen years old, the sisters are leaving each other for the first time. Each is engaged to a prince so that they may infiltrate the kingdoms from within and use their talents to bring down each monarchy for their mother. However, when the girls arrive at their new homes, they begin to realize that the world is not quite the way described to them by their mother. Will the girls change the plan as they form new relationships and see the struggles of each kingdom, or will they stay faithful to their mother?

THOUGHTS: Castles in their Bones hooked me from the very beginning. Saphronia, Daphne, and Beatriz change so much throughout the novel when they are finally on their own. They have to navigate challenges they never anticipated, and their real personalities start to emerge as they spend more time away from their mother. Thanks to the cliffhanger ending, I’m impatiently waiting for book two in the duology.

Fantasy           Emily Hoffman, Conestoga Valley SD

YA – This Woven Kingdom

Mafi, Tahereh. This Woven Kingdom. HarperCollins, 2022. 978-0-062-97244-6. $19.99. 512 p. Grades 9-12.

In the fantastic world of Ardunia, humans and Jinn are allowed to live among each other, according to the Fire Accords set in place by the current king, as long as they don’t use their powers and lie low. Despite the accords, Alizeh keeps her Jinn identity a secret from everyone around her. Although Alizeh is a powerful Jinn with ice in her veins, she lives a lonely life as a servant, cleaning the home of a duchess and working as a seamstress on the side for extra money. When she accidentally crosses paths with Prince Kamran, both her world and his are turned upside down. Kamran can’t stop thinking about her, even when he discovers her true identity and the prophecy that predicts she’ll be the downfall of his royal family. As their lives continue to intertwine, Alizeh holds onto her secrets while Kamran discovers the ones lurking within his own palace. These two are destined to be enemies, but can they become allies – or something more?

THOUGHTS: This Woven Kingdom is based on Persian mythology; however, it still reminded me of the Cinderella fairy tale. Although Alizeh is working as a servant, she’s actually a princess in disguise. At one point in the story, she’s given an opportunity to attend a ball in honor of Prince Kamran, and Alizeh is dressed and disguised using magic. Alizeh still has a lot of secrets that have yet to be revealed, and I think readers will be waiting impatiently for book two after the cliffhanger ending!

Fantasy          Emily Hoffman, Conestoga Valley SD